Gripping USA-Mexico Nations League Final Marred by Fan Behavior

Pro tip: don't throw things at players. Ever.

US-Mexico Nations League
United States' forward Christian Pulisic gets tangled up with Mexico's defender Carlos Salcedo and center and midfielder Jesus Gallardo.
The Denver Post via Getty Images

This weekend’s international break in global soccer made for a host of thrilling matches featuring some of the best players in the world. Unfortunately, it also featured some of the worst elements of watching soccer — including instances of bad behavior by fans on multiple continents. English fans booed England and Romania’s national teams taking a knee before a match in the lead-up to Euro 2021, a moment that’s led to plenty of analysis and recrimination after the fact.

Things turned even more heated later in the day in Denver, where the US and Mexico faced off in a Nations League final. The two national teams meeting have made for a number of moments of great soccer in the past (Dos a Cero among them), and the rivalry between the two teams can make for some heated moments on and off the pitch.

Here’s the thing: the US/Mexico rivalry is one that runs deep, and one that can prompt heated behavior among supporters of both teams. But there’s a difference between friendly banter and outright toxic behavior, and — unfortunately — the match in Denver saw far too much of the latter.

This included, as per a USA Today report, the game being halted due to a homophobic chant from the stands and objects being thrown at players, including something that struck the USMNT’s Gio Reyna in the head. “I think he’s going to be OK, but he did take something to the head, and it could have been a lot worse,” said USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter. And Reyna wasn’t the only player struck over the course of the game.

All of these actions marred what was by all accounts a thrilling game, as the US fought back after Mexico took an early lead. Eventually, the game came down to a penalty shootout, with heroic moments from the US’s backup goalkeeper, Ethan Horvath. And it’s unfortunate that the behavior of a few fans overshadowed what should go down as a thrilling match in the history of both teams.

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